A Rower’s Invested Interest

A Rower’s Invested Interest

In the pocket of his imagination,
the rower carried three coins
to be used
in the “stepping the masts” ceremony.*
On the days appointed,
he would row to the Morgan
and present the coins chosen
to be placed beneath each mast:

An 1841 U.S. Silver Dollar for the foremast,
a1941 U.S. Silver Half-Dollar for the main,
a 2013 U.S. Silver Dollar for the mizzen,
the years signifying
the ship’s launch, the ship’s arrival
at Mystic Seaport, the ship’s
being launched anew,

three coins in the fountain of the voyage, ongoing,
of the Morgan, three coins
of luck to waive superstitions
of those who sail the oceans,
coins minted to seal,
in place, the fragments
of fate, pertinent
to the last ship extant
in the history of whaling,

the Morgan, the embodiment of history
connecting the whale oil lamp
to Edison’s flash of insight
when the bulb lit up for the first time;
ship, electric,
sailing on the waves of time,
time, specifically, American.

To all this, the rower
would row the coins.

Philip Kuepper
17 October, 2013

*Note: On 17 October Mystic Seaport’s Shipyard staff stepped the first of the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan’s three masts, the foremast – seen in the photograph on top (Courtesy Mystic Seaport, photographer Andy Price). The vessel was de-rigged and had her masts and spars removed at the restoration of the whaleship that started in November 2008. Re-installing the masts, known as “stepping” in nautical terminology, is an important occasion during a ship’s construction.

“Stepping a mast is one of those milestones that marks both a new stage in the ship’s construction—or in this case, restoration—and the observance of a maritime tradition,” said Steve White, president of Mystic Seaport, at a brief ceremony held alongside the vessel on 17 October. “It is tradition to place a coin under the base of a mast to provide good luck.”

Today, the Morgan’s two remaining masts, the main and the mizzen, will be re-installed at the Museum’s Shipyard.

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